Thursday, November 3, 2011

Books I Want: Pop 485 and This Can't Be Tofu

As a counter to yesterday's post, today I bring you books that are interesting and well done, as opposed to written by monkeys and lining birdcages.

The first in this installment of "Books I Will Read at Some Point and Might Also Like to Own" is Population 485 by Michael Perry.

Michael Perry has returned to his hometown of New Auburn, Wisc., after a ten-year absence. To feel more in-touch with the town again, he joins the volunteer fire department, putting out flames and saving lives when he's not putting words on a page. This is the story of rural life: everyone knows everyone (including their history), and life is mostly taken at leisure - except when there's an emergency.

The first chapter tells of Perry's connection to New Auburn, and also the story of Tracy, whose car went out of control at a dangerous turn. His telling of the two stories is immaculate, bits from one followed by pieces of the other. His language choice is perfect. Describing the accident:

"One moment gravel is in the air like shrapnel, steel is tumbling, rubber tearing, glass imploding, and then... utter silence. As if peace is the only answer to destruction. The meadowlark sings, the land drops away south tot he hazy tamarack bowl of the Big Swamp... all around the land is rank with life. The girl is terribly, terribly alone in a beautiful, beautiful world."

I recall hearing about this one in college, when it came out, and everyone thought it was amazing. It was a perfect addition to Wisconsin literature. After reading the first chapter, I completely agree.

This cookbook by Deborah Madison doesn't quite fit with the aforementioned book. But it's a book I want, and a book that somehow pulled me out of a recent depression.

I've been doing that thing lately where I worry too much about where everything's going. I think too hard about where I am. I feel like a little creature trapped in a shell, and genetics have not given me any implements to break out. So I think I will be trapped in that shell forever.

My mind vibrates with all the fear and panic that has built up. And I stop being able to do anything, because I don't want to, and it won't make a difference anyway, and who really cares?

At that point, it's a waiting game. Part of me remembers that I've broken out of depressions past, and I will probably break out of this one too. But a larger part forgets those things. I imagine that this is how my life will be, now and forever. I will never step beyond this mess of chaos and pain. (Allie of Hyperbole and a Half describes this quite well, as does Jenny The Bloggess.)

But something always does pull me out of it and remind me of all the things I like to do. My ambition returns like a snarling kitten, looking to pounce on anything that needs doing. I am refreshed and ready to go, and I try my best to forget the darkness that enveloped me.

My break-out this time was motivated by a book about cooking tofu.

I love cooking. I love taking a recipe and making it my own. I love looking at what's in the house and making a feast out of whatever it happens to be. I love to make things I can enjoy with others, because honestly, we all need to eat, so it might as well be exciting.

Looking through This Can't Be Tofu reminded me of that, and I came up with a meal to concoct. Then I remembered a couple of other things I want to do. Then I remembered some more. Before I knew it, I had a To Do list I was eager to complete, and I felt immensely better.

Anyway. The book. There are some really incredible recipes here: sauteed asparagus with curried tofu and tomatoes. Mushrooms and tofu in paprika cream over egg noodles. Coconut red curry soup with butternut squash and lime. Tofu with cumin-laced spinach and shrimp. (Okay, that makes cumin sound like a drug. A tasty, tasty drug.)

But the best part might be the section at the beginning, describing how to prepare tofu. There are different methods of pressing/draining the tofu, and different ways of cooking it, from deep-fried to baked. I've already learned that marinades don't actually do much for tofu, other than change its color and flavor the outside. Better to season it as you cook.

I enjoy this book already, for possibly too many reasons. But the tofu I make tonight will give me double the reason to smile, and I'm okay with that.


  1. Perhaps this is already where you got it, but if not- Population 485 is on the white bookshelf in the office. Have at it!

  2. I found a copy at work, which I may buy. Already feels like a book I need to have. Thank you though! :)


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